balboa island improvement association

improving the island since 1918

about biia - visit and see what we are about and who our leaders are... see the links below...

RENTALS - Whether your renting, buying, or just staying a day or two... see the links below...

Destinations - Here are just some of the greater destinations on the island... see the links below...

Shop & Dine - Activities are in abundance here on the island. Learn more about us by selecting from the links below...

about balboa island - Activities are in abundance here on the island. Learn more about us by selecting from the links below...

Maps and travel - balboa island -whether your flying, driving, or walking, here are the maps that can get you there...

Events - balboa island - Has Several Annual Celebrations - Make sure you catch one of these...

Find out more about the BIIA or read our Bi-Monthly Newsletter to See Whats Happening... See links below...

Welcome to Balboa Island, CA

This is the Balboa Island Improvement Association's guide to Balboa Island. This guide offers listings of accommodations, activities, activities, maps, and travel information. Hopefully, this guide shall assist our visitors in enjoying the best of what Balboa Island has to offer. Stop by and stay a while, and see why many refer to this beautiful island as "The Host of the Coast".


The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Proudly hosts the 103rd Year of this spectacular Holiday Tradition 

See Picture Gallery of last Year's Parade

New Parade Route Starting Point in 2014

103rd annual newport harbor holiday boat parade theme {To be Announced} December 14-18, 2014 Newport Beach California.

Join over a million viewers as you watch beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes sail along the harbor in the 103rd Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, we invite you to sail to the theme “The Joys of Christmas Toys.”

2014 Parade Route

The 2014 Parade will utilize the same starting and ending point as last year, located off Bay Island

Welcome to Balboa Island :

History of Balboa Island - Come see what made this historic island great.

About The balboa island improvement association

In 1918 the Balboa Island Improvement Association was started (and is still going strong). The BIIA was a strong motivating force in working with the City on bulkhead repair, ferry service, a sewer system, water, gas, electricity, paved streets and sidewalks, and street lighting.

As Newport Beach’s Christmas Card to the world, the boat parade will set the harbor ablaze for five consecutive nights. The parade has starts off Bay Island at 6:30 pm and finishes at the same site at approximately 9:00 pm each evening.
When: Wednesday, December 19-23, 2012 nightly at 6:30pm.
Where: Newport Harbor/Balboa Island

Join over a million viewers as you watch beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes sail along the harbor. Hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, the parade begins at Collins Island each evening at 6:30 p.m., and will last approximately two and a half hours.
Dating back to 1919, the parade has been judged one of the top ten holiday events in the country by the New York Times. The boats promenade along a 14-mile route through the town's extensive harbour and range from modest small craft to imposing trophy yachts.
Many are elaborately decorated, with outlandish Christmas decorations and squadrons of carolers. Over a million spectators turn out in the course of the event for the nightly parade.

History of The Holiday Boat Parade

(exerpt from & George Beek)

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, has a long history.  John Scarpa, an Italian gondolier by trade, and Joseph Beek, developer of Beacon Bay, the Balboa Ferry Line and the principal force in the early development of Balboa Island, arrived in the Newport Harbor area about 98 years ago. These two men established what was then called the Tournament of Lights, an event that would continue for the next nine decades.

In 1907, Scarpa began the tradition of lighting boats by taking a group of visitors from Pasadena across the bay in a gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns. One year later, on July 4, 1908, the first lighted boat parade took place. Scarpa, along with his fellow small boat operators, put together a loosely organized affair consisting of nine vessels. The parade, illuminated by Japanese lanterns, was led by Scarpa’s gondola followed by eight canoes. Thus, Scarpa has been credited with creating the first lighted boat parade.

It was 1913 when Walter Gustin, decided to promote the event featuring lighted boats which was called the “Illuminated Water Parade”, and to incent participants, the boats were judged and prizes were given for the best decorated and best lighted vessels. Unfortunately, this was to be the last parade for the next five years. World War I erupted and The Great Depression hit Newport Harbor. It was not until 1919 that Beek, who at the time was operating ferryboats like the Fat Ferry, rekindled the lighted boat parade, resulting in the establishment of the "Balboa Tournament of Lights" in 1921. Support for this event came from both the Island and the Peninsula. Soon there were fleets of rowboats, canoes, and small sailboats. Even motorboats, power cruisers and large auxiliaries became a common sight. By 1929, scores of decorated and illuminated power craft were towing their quota of small craft. As each tournament followed, the decorations became more varied and imaginative. In 1929, Governor C.C. Young stated, "It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! I think its most charming feature is its freedom from commercialism."

With the exception of a few years during World War II, the Tournament of Lights was held every summer from 1919 through 1949. Skipped in 1948, 1949 the Police and Fire authorities believed that the light parade was drawing too many visitors to the harbor and creating heavy crowding and traffic congestion. The Tournament of Lights fell out of favor.

However, back in 1946, Newport Beach City employees had outfitted a barge during the holiday season and installed a lighted Christmas tree. The barge was towed around the harbor while its passengers sang Christmas carols to residents on shore.

Most of the early participants were children who decorated floats that were towed around the harbor. The floats were constructed in Beek’s garage and many were patterned after those seen in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.

In later years, the Beek family came to the front again and provided one of their ferryboats for the floating Christmas tree celebration. Gradually, each year, other lighted boats fell in line behind the city employees’ floating tree. Soon the Tournament of Lights came back as a Christmas celebration.  However, in the early 70’s the crowd draw forced the Beeks to withdraw their ferry, for it was needed for service transport for all the people and by then there were more than enough boats glad to lead the parade.

Today the Tournament of Lights, now called the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, features as many as 150 boats. The parade is proudly hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and is hailed as “one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation” by the New York Times. With this year’s theme, “Twas the Lights Before Christmas,” the parade is the premier event of the holiday season in Southern California.

Watching the Parade Tips:

One'th by Land

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade starts at Collins Island at 6:30 p.m. each evening and finishes at the same spot. It runs for five days in mid-December, Wednesday through Sunday. The boats follow a longer route on the weekend, taking about two and a half hours to make their rounds on Wednesday and Thursday and three hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The bay front is a great place to watch the show of passing lights reflecting off the water. The parade route goes generally along the inner edges of the bay and circles Balboa Island. These are some of the places where you can watch it:

On the bay side of Balboa Peninsula

From 18th Street to the end of Bay Avenue
Anywhere along the water on Balboa Island
Along Pacific Coast Highway between Balboa Bay Club and Riverside Drive
Along the water on Lido Isle. Boats go into the channel on the west end of the island only on weekends

Harborside Restaurant, 400 Main Street
Newport Landing Restaurant, 503 E. Edgewater Ave.
Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from Your Hotel
Waterside rooms at the Balboa Bay Club offer a front-row seat.

Getting to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
If you're driving, go early. Traffic gets quite busy starting about two hours before the parade starts.
Newport Dunes RV Park offers free shuttle service. If you're staying at a local hotel, ask if they do the same.

Two'th by Sea

Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade by Boat
If you own a boat, you can join the parade, but even if you don't, you can book a seat on one of the party boats that park themselves in the middle of the action.
Fun Zone Boat Company
Catalina Passenger Service
Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from a Local Restaurant
Another enjoyable way to watch the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is from a waterside table at one of Newport Beach's fine restaurants:
Along Pacific Coast Highway:
Rusty Pelican, 2735 W. Coast Highway
Billy's at the Beach, 2751 W. Coast Highway
Chart House, 2801 W. Coast Highway
Villa Nova Restaurant, 3131 W. Coast Highway
First Cabin Restaurant at Balboa Bay Club, 1221 West Coast Highway

To see or download This Year's Parade Route Click Here.

Ring of Lights

Serving as the backdrop for the hundreds of lighted boats in the parade is the annual “Ring of Lights” contest, hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Beautifully decorated bayside homes and businesses surrounding the harbor go “all out” with their own holiday spirit, featuring everything from roof-top animated scenes to dancing Christmas trees. With its own judged categories and prizes awarded, the “Ring of Lights” has become as celebrated as the boat parade itself.

Awards Dinner and Auction

Both the Boat Parade and the Ring of Lights competitions culminate at the annual Awards Dinner & Auction to be held on Friday, January 18, 2008 at The Balboa Bay Club and Resort. Open to the public, this gala event will honor award winners from both competitions. Additionally, the party will feature live entertainment, dancing and an incredible live and silent auction. Date and location, as well as details on how your business can suppot the auction and the parade, will be available shortly.

For more information about these events, or to request information about viewing areas, restaurants and boat charter companies, please call the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce at (949) 729-4400. For a complete listing of member restaurants and boat charters please see the Viewing Page. Also see to Enter Your Boat, Enter Your Home or Business.